NORMAN, Okla. – Just because an injury has temporarily reduced the competition at quarterback, don’t expect Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops to let that dictate his decision-making process.
"When we feel it's the right time,” the Sooners’ coach said Saturday during the team’s on-campus media day. “When we feel a guy has definitely separated...when we're ready to release it, we will. We've won eight Big 12 Championships with six different QBs. Our methods of doing it have been pretty successful. We'll keep bringing them along like we feel we need to."
Those impatient with the process will just have to wait. As co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel pointed out, in 2007 the Sooners told the team freshman Sam Bradford would be the starter and it was a week before the announcement was made.
“Whenever the guy earns the job, we’ll name the guy,” Heupel said.
Junior Blake Bell and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight are now the top two candidates to replace Landry Jones. Sophomore Kendal Thompson underwent surgery for a broken foot Thursday. Stoops said Thompson should be back in six weeks or sooner.
The practice reps that would go to Thompson should give Bell and Knight more opportunities. Bell, who the last two seasons has scored 24 rushing touchdowns as a short-yardage specialist in the “Bell Dozer” package, has the most game experience but has just 20 pass attempts.
"I feel like it's a job I've got to go win," said Bell, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 263 pounds. "After Landry leaving, it's opened up for anybody. The only thing I can do is go out there each and every day and show them what I can do on the field, and I feel like I've done that."
Mike Stoops returned to his brother’s staff last season as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator and he found out why that being a D-coordinator in the Big 12 makes for nightmares and sleepless nights.
“I am more comfortable this year, understanding more what teams like to do, what their tendencies are,” he said. “But finding the right balance is a constant battle. In this league, it is about the ability to stretch the field and then run it. It is about the ability to stretch the field and then throw it.”
The Sooners’ overall defensive numbers weren’t offensive but they were far from what is expected from an OU defense. Oklahoma found itself a step behind in the chess game – when it played three linebackers to stop the run, teams passed the Sooners silly. When OU went to six defensive backs, the opposition ran with impunity.
“We’re going to try and change things up and not be so predictable,” said Stoops, who must replace seven starters. “If you can’t stop the run, it becomes very difficult to play good defense.
“Winning is the most important thing, but holding people to 10, 17 points in this league isn’t realistic. But letting ‘em run up and down the field, that’s embarrassing. We’d love to dominate but that’s out the window. We need to make the offense work harder.”
Doubled Up On Treys
Two of the top play makers for the Oklahoma offense this season could be senior running back Trey Millard and sophomore wide receiver Trey Metoyer. At least, that’s what senior offensive linemen Gabe Ikard and Bronson Irwin say.
“I know he’s done a lot of great stuff, but I think Trey Millard’s gonna be an even bigger part of our offense this year,” Ikard said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff in that puts him in some good spots, so I’m excited about that. He does so much for the team, but we’re trying to get him some more touches.”
Millard, in three seasons as a fullback, has totaled 441 yards rushing on 81 carries with 59 receptions for 599 yards. At 6-2, 253 pounds, he is a combination of mobility and size that is rare.
Metoyer was expected to make an impact last season after wowing the coaches during spring and preseason practice but he finished with just 17 receptions for 148 yards. Irwin, though, says that Metoyer is ready to be more productive.
“Kind of freakish body, long arms, biggest hands I’ve ever seen,” Irwin said. “He’s made some amazing grabs, one-handed. All kinds of crazy stuff.”
Stoops is excited about the freshmen class, especially on the defensive side. Linebackers Jordan Evans and Dominique Alexander along with defensive backs Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Boyd have been impressive in practices thus far.
The Sooners can use depth and talent on the defensive line and Stoops said he’s confident in what he has seen out of that group. “A year ago, all the questions were about who was gonna be our top receivers and that worked out OK,” he said.
Stoops also said that defensive tackle Quincy Russell, a 6-4, 315-pound junior-college transfer, is finishing up academic requirements and could join the team next week.
Oklahoma shuffled its assistant coaching staff during the off-season. Stoops said that the newcomers have brought energy and enthusiasm and that the transition has been “seamless.”
Running back Brennan Clay on his personal expectations this season:
“It's pretty high. I'm shooting for 1,000 (yards) this year, believe it or not. That's what my ultimate goal is. And we have to get this Big 12 and get this national championship. Whatever falls in between, falls in between.”
Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jay Norvell:
“You better come in here thinking you’re gonna play. We don’t recruit players to redshirt as freshmen. We recruit players to come in and start making plays.
Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel on senior running back Roy Finch:
“His maturity, the way he's approached this offseason in the weight room, academically, at practice, meetings - he's been tremendous. He's been mature in a great way. Because of that, I feel like he's going to have a great year.”
Skywriters Tour History
In a tradition that harkens back to a previous era in college football, sportswriters and broadcasters would gather in a central location and go on an annual conference-wide tour, traveling from campus-to-campus to cover preseason practices. The tour provided fans with unprecedented daily coverage from each school by moving the group between campuses by charter bus or air service and thus was dubbed the Skywriters Tour. Since 2008, the Big 12 has revived the tradition and staged its own preseason campus tour to preview the football season.